Her name is Betty. She looks like she’s much older than my mum but younger than my grandmother. She works for citibank in Singapore, my dad is her client- she saw my jewelry when I advertised it on facebook. We ended up talking for awhile, and I found her one of the most amazing woman I’ve ever met! But this blog entry is not about Betty. It’s about one of my favorite topic to wrestle with in my head: identity.
Let me build up to that now.
When I finished high school and on my way to go to the music school, Monique DiMattina, my former jazz piano teacher sent me an sms,
“Whatever you do, be yourself.”
I respect and adore Monique, and I knew that as an artist, she knows exactly what she’s talking about. I constantly kept her words at the back of my mind. But at that time I also know that even though it sounds easy, I wouldn’t understand fully what she says.
Sure enough, I faced the world, struggle through uni dodging criticism, trying to please my lectures to get the grades. My identity had been put through a very rough test. University made me come to a short conclusion: It’s very hard to be yourself, so hard that it’s almost not worth it…- until I met Betty.
I’m not really sure what we were talking about to come to this topic, but she happened to say, “It’s very easy to be yourself.” And of course I snapped, “No it isn’t! It’s very hard!” Then she said, “Being yourself is the easiest thing to do. Not being yourself is much harder.” I fell silent. I thought that my struggles all this time had proven a point, but it hasn’t. This journey is not over yet.
“If you do what you don’t want, you will be unhappy, and whatever the result is in the end, you will not be satisfied. If you do what you want and be yourself, it is much easier to do, and you will be satisfied in the end.”
“But it’s not easy!”
“Yes it is! It's the easiest thing to do! But you must remember that when you be yourself, people will dislike you.”
I immediately thought, “She’s completely right!”. I don’t have problem with being myself, I let peoples criticism hurt me, have effect on me, let them shaped me in the way I don’t want to and it makes things very confusing and hard. I like the way she was not hesitant about it. It’s not “People might, they may or may not dislike you.” She says, “People WILL dislike you”. It’s inescapable…, but happiness is at the brim of the horizon.
And then something happen at work.
I was designing a picture to go on mugs, and it took me a lot of effort because I’m still trying to get familiar to photoshop and in using my wacom. When they're done my boss immdediately offered them to our customers, but none of them wanted it. So I got a bit upset thinking that my effort is now wasted.
-Don’t use too much purple because it’s symbol for widows.
My boss was so nice to me that she tried to cheer me up by telling me that my design is not ugly, it’s just that sometimes it's hard to know what the market is like. “You know, there’s this design, it’s so ugly and I hate it. I don’t even want to make sample for it because I don’t want to be responsible for it if it doesn’t sell. But they liked it and we had a lot of repeat order for it. Even export wanted it!”
I feel rather hopeless and bewildered. For awhile I find myself thinking of how ugly can I possibly let myself draw for the mugs to be able to sell.
I also learnt other exceptions when selling in local Indonesian market:
-Don’t use too much yellow because it’s the colour of death.
-Make sure that the design is very colourful no matter what
-Don’t draw dogs because they are considered unclean.
That night at dinner time, I was complaining about this situation to my parents. My dad says, “Well… you know the story, if you’re trying to catch fish, you can’t use a bait that you like… like donuts. You have to feed them worms, even if you don’t like worms.”
But … but … but… why would I wanna catch fish if I’ve already got my donut?